Little Grace Arrants, the adopted daughter of Frank H Arrants and wife Estelle Peebles Arrants was born 9 October 1915, but did not live to reach her eighth birthday. She perished in the tragedy of the Cleveland School Fire 17 May 1923. 
ENTIRE FAMILIES PERISH AS PARENTS AND CHILDREN BATTLE TO REACH EXITS.
MANY LEAP FROM ROOF WHEN OVERTURNING OF A LAMP ON STAGE AT ENTERTAINMENT PRECIPITATES FIRE AND MAD PANIC.
SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL HOUSE FUNERAL PYRE FOR COMMUNITY.
Camden, S. C., May 18 — Seventy-four persons, many of them school children, lost their lives last night in a ghastly fire which swept through a country school house six miles south of here.
They were burned, suffocated and trampled to death in a mad, terrified scramble for the one exit that led from the top floor of the flimsy wooden structure.
Death List Expected To Grow. Perhaps a score of others are so badly burned they may die, and many who were successful in their frenzied dash for the stairway are suffering from injuries or varying degrees of seriousness. The terrible tragedy occurred at what is known as the Cleveland School. Those who escaped today told the horror details of a night of horror. Between 150 and 200 persons were gathered in the school house for graduation exercises. The school house was of the old fashioned country, wooden type, with a stairway in the rear and lighted only with kerosene lamps, located in a comparatively isolated community with no other houses or building nearby. The audience was made up of fathers, mothers and children, the latter dressed in their “Sunday best” for the biggest community event of the year. About 10:00 P. M. after most of the exercises had been completed and the superintendent of schools was presenting the ribbon-bound diplomas to the graduates of the eighth grade, there was a terrific explosion. It came from a smoky kerosene lamp swinging in the rear of the hall from the ceiling. Burning oil was scattered over the back part of the big square room and flames appeared instantaneously, catching readily at the dry wood. The only staircase was in the rear and almost before those in the room realized what had happened escape was virtually cut off. The flames immediately surrounded the stairway.
Leap From Windows. Those in the rear of the room dashed through the blinding smoke and jumped from the windows to safety below. Those nearest the platform and in the front seats of the hall were not so fortunate. With no windows from the platform and the smoke and confusion growing worse every second, there resulted a mad, terrified scramble for the one hope — the stairs. It was sheer panic and it paid the usual price of panic. Women and children, gay in their white graduation costumes were knocked down and trampled under foot ant the interior of the hall became in a few minutes a screaming, milling mass of horror-stricken people, intent upon but one thing — escape. Some of those who escaped said later the doors of the auditorium “opened the wrong way,” and that a score of persons got jammed against a closed door and thus held up escape for many.
Warning Ignored. The Superintendent of Schols[sic], on the stage with diplomas in his arms, made a futile attempt to stem the tide of panic. He shouted that all could get out safely, if they took their time, but his voice was lost in the screams of the women and the children. The superintendent and those of the graduating class, being furthest from the stairway, are believed to have perished. The flames spread through the dry wooden building with almost unbelievable speed. Within a few moments after the explosion the whole rear portion was blazing high, and the flames, fanned by a stiff wind, began to eat into the flooring.
70 In Inferno. Then, the second floor collapsed and down into that raging inferno of fire and burning embers went all who were left — established at about 70 persons. The first of hose who escaped by jumping out of the windows dashed across fields for the nearest farm houses for telephones by which to summon aid. Practically the whole countryside was at the school house, however, and some houses were locked. Telephones are not many any way, in the community. Camden finally was notified and chemical fire apparatus was sent on the run. When it arrived it was too late — the school house was a mass of burning embers, smoking and black — the funeral pyre of half this little community. When the Camden firemen arrived they looked upon the mass of ruins around which stood weeping mothers, frantic fathers and wailing children, looking for their loved ones. There were a score of persons lying groaning on the ground, suffering from broken limbs and fractures suffered in leaping from the windows.
Night Of Terror. The darkness was lighted only by the ruddy glow of the smouldering fire and in the intense heat and amid confusion the work of finding out who had escaped and who had died continued throughout the night. Dawn this morning found a wearied, blackened crowd on men working feverishly. At 8 o’clock they had succeeded in pulling 74 bodies from the ruins. The work of identification has not been completed because of the confusion and the stunned condition of those who escaped. Several whole families, however, have been wiped out. “There was no one to blame,” said the chief of police here. “It all happened so quickly and the panic was natural.” All of the victims were either graduates, students of the little school or parents and friends.
- Grace Arrants’ name appears on a list taken from the plaque on the memorial on the Site of the Cleveland School
- The Syracuse Herald New York, 18 May 1923
This photo montage of Box and Peebles family members is wonderful.
This is the emotion evoked when one thinks back on Fannie Tolbert. Fannie Tolbert was born 2 March 1908. On the 1910 census her age is given as 6; there are other discrepancies in the birth year of other children on the same census record. The information on official documents is only as accurate as the person giving the information.
Fannie Tolbert was the eighth child of nine known children born to Elizabeth Anna Garth Rachel Matilda Terry Tolbert and husband Joseph Calvin Tolbert. The Tolbert name was originally spelled Talbert, which would denote tallow or candle maker. Over the decades it has many variant spellings to include Tabutt, Talbot, Tolbut, Talburt, etc.
After so many years researching and trying to locate Fannie, her whereabouts is now known. And I ponder as to whether the family ever knew what became of her. I am pretty sure that my grandmother Drue Tolbert Peebles, her sister, never knew and that fact might have brought her comfort now. She always called her Sister Fannie.
Fannie Tolbert married first to William POLK Peebles. Polk Peebles was a brother to my granddaddy, Robert Duncan Peebles. Tolbert sisters married Peebles brothers. Polk and Fannie had two girls. Mother talked of them often and had a high regard for the two sisters. She called them Red and Bobbie. Their names were actually Pauline and Louise Tolbert. At some point Fannie and Polk Peebles divorced, but no record has been found to date, but had to be prior to 1920.
Polk Peebles married a second time to Hortensia “Teanie” Terry. That marriage took place 21 November 1927 at Leighton, Colbert County, Alabama. They had several children: Dorothy Jean, Dwight, Linda, Lou Ella, William Thomas, Cleora “Cleeter”, Linnie Dee, Coleman Lee, Floyd, Doris Ann, and Beverly Joan.
It seems that no one today can add any info on Fannie or what became of her. Both of her daughters have passed on. Fannie married a Henry Chastain the second time. Her death came at a tender age. She was just 30 years 8 months and 16 days old at her death on 18 Nov 1938. Her death certificate proves a heartache for family and friends.
Fannie Tolbert Peebles Chastain died at Lookout Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee of her own hand. She was poisoned with bichloride. Verification that it is Fannie Tolbert Chastain comes from information extracted from her death certificate:
Father:J C Tolbert, born Alabama
Mother: Lizzie Terry, born Alabama
Death:18 Nov 1938 in Chattanooga, Hamilton, Tennessee; she died in the am
Death: suicide in the city at a hotel
She was under a doctor’s care from 2 November to 18 November 1938. That brings to mind, was she suffering from a terminal disease or other ailment? She was buried 20 November 1938 in Memorial Cemetery in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. The only Memorial cemetery found in Chattanooga was Chattanooga Memorial Cemetery. A memorial in her honor has been placed on Find-A-Grave online.
Tennessee, Deaths and Burials Index, 1874-1955 verifies the info give in the death death certificate in Tennessee.
U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 about Luke W Peebles
- World War II enlistment record for James Arlander Murray… (rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com)
- Luther Coleman Peebles World War II Enlistment Record…(rememberingthehsoals.wordpress.com)
- Elmer Louis Peebles World War II Enlistment record… (rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com)
U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 about Luther C Peebles
- World War II enlistment record for James Arlander Murray… (rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com)
but I do not think his height was 99″ or his weight was 996 lbs. There is some serious transcription error here.
U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 about Elmer L Peebles
- World War II enlistment record for James Arlander Murray… (rememberingtheshoals.wordpress.com)
that is what the brick walls in my Murray, Peebles, Gregory, Casey, and other family lines are even to this date. I was heartened this week by finding out about one of my Peebles family ancestors. It was staring me right in the face for several years, but I just did not connect the dots.
In past years I have lived where my Manus, Casey, and Peebles line, or factions of them, have lived. The most recent discovery was Sarah Elizabeth Reesanna Peebles. She was the youngest known daughter of my great-great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side, John M Peebles. Even with DNA testing and verifying that our John M Peebles and descendants were the offspring of Captain David Peebles and Elspet Mackie McKee Peebles there remains a brick wall.
Captain David Peebles was the progenitor of our line of Peebles in America. He was born in Peebles-shire Scotland. Much to my chagrin, however, I have not connected a father to our John M Peebles, although he is believed to be Robert Peebles born circa 1750. DNA testing has verified that we are related to John Pinckney Peebles, Lewis Peebles, Jesse Peebles, Thomas H Peebles, Thomas Washington Peebles and his family from Mooresville in Limestone County, Alabama. We are also related to the Peebles line in Columbia, Tennessee.
Needless to say I was shocked to find Sarah Elizabeth Reesanna Peebles lived almost within walking distance of me when I lived in the Monrovia community, in Madison County. And she is buried at Fowlkes Cemetery on Capshaw Road in Monrovia. Also buried at Fowlkes Cemetery in Monrovia are: William Oliver Peoples Peebles born 24 Jul 1853 in Marion County, Alabama and died 24 Oct 1935 in Monrovia in Madison County, Alabama. He also had daughters who were buried in Fowlkes Cemetery in Monrovia, Madison County, Alabama. They were: Evie Drucilla People Holman 1895 – 1966; Velma Nettie Peoples 1896 – 1935; Exie Idora Meris Peoples Daniel 1899 – 1990.
William Oliver Peeples was the son of John Pinckney Peebles. John Pinckney Peebles was the son of Isham, who himself was the son of the elder Isham. And Isham the elder was the son of William (of Pitt) Peebles of North Carolina. The surname is variously spelled Peebles, Peeples, Peoples and possibly other variants. The surname that was the correct name for our forefathers was Peebles, towit Captain David Peebles. I think I feel very close to finding the clue to our John M Peebles’ parents; these are all proven lines though DNA, now just to connect the dots.
He and Sarah Elizabeth Shirley, 1861 – 1948, had the following known children in addition to the ones listed above as buried in Fowlkes Cemetery: Martha Jerrity Peoples born 1882, John William Pinckney Peoples 1884 – 1976, Hassie Mary Lou Peoples 1886 – 1977, Arthur Clanton Peoples born 1889, Lillie B Peoples 1891 – 1962, Evie Drucilla Peoples 1895 – 1966, Velma Nettie Peoples 1896 – 1935, Exie Idora Merdis Peoples 1899 – 1990, Bertha Elsie Irene Peoples 1902 – 1977.
Children buried in other cemeteries in Madison County, Alabama include: Sallie Sillie B Peoples and it appears that she died at the age of 102; Martha Jerrity Peoples Brown whose death date is not known but is likely buried in Marion County, Alabama; John William Pinckney Peoples 09 Nov 1884 in Lamar County, Alabama and died 04 May 1976 in Toney, Madison County, Alabama; Hassie Mary Lou Peoples Wisham born 27 Oct 1886 in Pelham, Shelby County, Alabama and died 08 Sep 1977 in Torrance, Los Angeles, California; Arthur Clanton Peoples born 18 Jun 1889 in Pikeville, Marion County, Alabama and likely died there; Lillie B Peoples Seymour born 28 Dec 1891 in Alabama and died 11 Mar 1962in either Flint, Morgan County, Alabama or Madison County, Alabama; and Bertha Elsie Irene Peoples Seymour, who may have also married a Hallmark. She was born 16 Jul 1902 in Tupelo, Mississippi (possibly) and died 12 Mar 1977 in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama.
Now the question begs to be answered why does Sarah Elizabeth Reesanna Peoples live in the same community as William Oliver Peoples? All the others spell their surname as Peebles, but not Sarah, or whoever documents her in records. That is a puzzle yet today. She was born in Giles County, Tennessee to John M Peebles and Elizabeth Octavia Laughlin McLaughlan. John M and Elizabeth Octavia were married in 1833 in Limestone County, Alabama as they lived just over the state line. Sarah Elizabeth Reesanna Peoples appears to never have married; or at least no record has been found as of yet. Her children bear the surname of Peoples, which is her maiden name. John M Peebles and Elizabeth Octavia Laughlin Peebles, 1813 – 1870, had the following known children: Emeline H Peebles Sylvester born 1836; Anna Menefee Peebles born 1838; Katherine E Peebles born 1839; Priscilla Laughlin Peebles Lee 1840 – 1913; George Henry Peebles, Grandpa Dick, 1842 – 1928; William M Peebles 1842 – 1891; Mary Peebles born 1846; Wynona Satoka Toke or Nona Peebles Woodard 1859 – 1916; Sarah Elizabeth Reesanna Peebles Peoples 1861 – 1948; and Margaret Maggie Peebles 1870.
Some researchers believe that a Pleasant Mullins was the father of her children; but which Pleasant Mullins remains a mystery. And as of yet no marriage record has been found; but that is not at all unusual. Her known children are: James Franklin Pete Peoples 1873 – 1953 and Ella Birdie Peoples who first married a Malone and then a Beard, 1877-1960. James Franklin Peoples was sometimes referred to as Pete and sometimes referred to as Frank.
Ella Birdie Peoples Beard is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama. The photos below are courtesy of Jim Bauman and are posted on Find-A-Grave on their respective memorial pages.
|Birth:||Dec. 2, 1877
|Death:||Oct. 18, 1960
Daughter of Pleasant Mullins and Sarah Elizabeth (Sally)Peoples.Wife of William Thomas Malone,mother of Franklin Malone and Minnie Odell Malone Beard of this marriage. Wife of Benjamin Franklin Beard, mother of John Wesley Beard, Florence Beard Perry, William James Belton Beard, Beatrice Beard McBride, Eleanor Beard Taylor. Grandmother of Roy Belton Beard (Jim T.Bauman) and many others.
This is a photo of Hettie Melissa Glenn Letson Evitts Tolbert and her husband Joseph Calvin Tolbert. Miss Hettie was the stepmother of my grandmother, Betty DRUE Jane Tolbert Peebles (Mama). Mama said that Miss Hettie was always good to her. Mama lost her mother at the young age of nine years old.
The day of my mother Slena Mae Peebles’ fourth birthday in 1927, mother was in the yard when Mama came out on the porch and said, “Slena Mae, honey, today is your birthday.” All that my mother knew of birthdays was that it was likely a date on a calendar. There was always a Farmer’s Almanac calendar in their home. Mother associated the birthday with a date, and the date on the calendar. That calendar had ‘beautiful women’ on it, so Mother assumed a birthday is a beautiful girl. She asked my grandmother, “Well, Mama, can it walk?” They had a little chuckle over that over the years. The family lived in a house, likely much like the one the Letson’s lived in, except likely not as spacious. Mother would talk of the children playing under the front porch. She described the house as having cracks in the floor and you could see the chickens pecking underneath through the cracks. And, if I remember correctly, the houses had large stones underneath the foundations.
Mama told mother that she did not have any flour sacks to make her panties at another time. Mother cried. Mother was always a very modest person, even as a child. So, Miss Hettie as family called her, gave Mama flour sacks to make my Mother panties with.
I remember meeting Miss Hettie once or twice. The last time I saw her was at a funeral, or rather at the graveside. She was very tall and slender and just slightly bent from the shoulders. Her hair still had color and her skin was what I would describe as having an olive tint. She wore her hair just as seen in the photo. She remarked to me that I was a very pretty girl; so as you can note, she was an instant hit with me. That was likely in 1960. I remember us going to the cemetery at Smyrna and seeing her grave all sunk in and that very much disturbed me; since then the grave has been maintained nicely.
Miss Hettie was a Glenn by birth. Her first husband, was Robert Green “Bob” Letson. Bob Letson served in the War Between the States and was held prisoner of war. Bob was the son of Big Mac Letson whose home is pictured below. Bob met an untimely death at the hands of his son-in-law. Miss Hettie married next an Evitts man; but little is known of him. She next married Joseph Calvin Tolbert and they had children. Both had children by their previous marriage.
Miss Hettie and my great-grandfather, Joseph Calvin Tolbert, married. After his death, there was no marker for his grave. My grandfather, Robert Duncan Peebles, made homemade tombstones one year out of concrete and marbles for Grandpa Dick (George Henry Peebles his grandfather) and his father-in-law, Joseph Calvin Tolbert. Those homemade markers remained on those graves for years. Myself and my brothers got George Henry Peebles a proper marker from the VA that commemorated his service in the War Between the States. After Miss Hettie died, their children had a double marker placed on the grave of her and Joseph Calvin Tolbert. When the double marker was placed, Gran took his homemade tombstone that he had made for Joseph C Tolbert and placed it at the head his mother-in-law’s grave. Myself and two of my brothers placed a gravemarker on her grave with her full name which was Elizabeth Anna Garth Rachel Matilda Terry “Lizzie” Tolbert . Lizzie Tolbert was Mama’s mother and Gran’s aunt. All these graves are at Smyrna Baptist Church Cemetery in Lawrence County, Alabama.
Hettie Letson Tolbert is an ancestor of Starla Letson Tsosie. Starla showed us what life was like where the Letson families and my Tolbert and Peebles families lived; Mama was born at Mountain Home. General Joseph Wheeler had a summer home at Mountain Home even though his plantation home was very nearby; this was partly to get out of the more sweltering heat off the mountain and as a defense to mosquitoes during the hot summers. I see chickens roaming the yard, at least four dogs, and I think I see pigs on the far left in the back. It appears from the difference in the shingles on the roof that it was a one room building that had been added onto later. This house was called a ‘shotgun’ house, or a ‘dog trot’ house and sometimes was referred to as a ‘cracker’ house. I just call it history.
those Peebles’ hands. I like to think that I carry a little bit of Gran around with me as I too have those hands. I have often wondered who gave those hands to Gran (Robert Duncan Peebles) and how many generations they go back. There are many of us who have those hands. I could name a few: mother,
Ellen,me, Gran, Rayburn, Sandra, and Chad. I never notice them on anyone else, but with age I have learned that they are a symbol of strength and so
what if jewelry and nail polish could never make them look more ladylike – every time I look at my hands I remember. I remember Gran. Gran as stated before was one who when he died left each and every grandchild believing that he/she was his favorite. And I consider that a great accomplishment.
Chad Peebles has those hands, as does his Dad. Chad is right now using those hands to grasp those big bullets (I guess they are actually grenades) and load them into those pop guns that could cause someone to meet Allah sooner than they may wish to ordinarily. He is a Marine, our favorite Marine, currently serving this country that we so love. His father, Anthony Peebles, served in the military and was one of those who went to Grenada; he is another of my heroes. And sure as God made little green apples, he would druther, if he had his druthers, be home holding those he loves in those Peebles hands attached to those Peebles arms.
One of Chad’s sisters, Beth, cross-stitched the following poem about her Daddy’s hands many years ago. It describes those Peebles’ hands pretty well, I think.
I remember Daddy’s hands folded silently in prayer,
And reaching out to hold me when I had a nightmare.
You could read quite a story in the calluses and lines.
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind.I remember Daddy’s hands, How they held my Mama tight,
And patted my back for something I’d done right.
There are things I’ve forgotten that I loved about that man,
But I’ll always remember the love in Daddy’s hands.Daddy’s hands, were soft and kind when I was crying.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle,
But I’ve come to understand,
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.I remember Daddy’s hands working till they bled,
Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us all fed.
If I could do things over, I’d live my life again,
And never take for granted the love in Daddy’s hands
~ Unknown author
Godspeed Chad Peebles. Thank you for your service to our country. Your family anxiously awaits your return and the return of all those brave boys and girls who are serving in the military. I would wager to say that there will be a lot of those Peebles’ hands waiting to shake your Peebles’ hands when you get home.
or Bonnie Accord, David Peebles‘ plantation or a part of it, is now known as Aberdeen and is on the National Register of Historical Places. Why, bless their hearts, the Peebles name is not even listed as one of the former owners. Some of the information about the history seems erroneous to those who may be familiar with the David Peebles family of Prince George County in Virginia.
The two-story brick home, a temple style building, rectangular in shape was built circa 1790. Perhaps James Cooke did build Aberdeen, however, as it was David Peebles who originally owned the property and as some descendants believe still owns it. The once pristine plantation is located on what would seem an isolated and lonely stretch of highway nine miles east of Hopewell on Route 10. It’s physical address is 15301 James River Drive in Disputanta, Prince George County, Virginia in the 23842 zip code. Given as primary owners are: James Cooke family, Thomas Proctor, and the Charles Marks family.
Aberdeen, originally part of the Bonaccord estate, the records of the Historical Register state that it was given to Elizabeth Bonaccord [Peebles] upon her marriage to James Cooke. It is named after Cooke’s birthplace, Aberdeen, Scotland. The write-up about ‘Aberdeen’ is part of a Virginia W.P.A. Historical inventory Project sponsored by the Virginia Conservation Commission under the direction of its Division of History.
In 1840 a great celebration took place at ‘Aberdeen’ in the form of a wedding for the groom Nathaniel Cooke. Cooke had served in the Confederates States Army in Company F, 5th Virginia Cavalry. Evidently it was a grand and great event, as it has become part of the history of the home. Nathaniel Cooke died in 1862. The write-up suggests that James Cooke was the progenitor of the Cooke family.
The photos of ‘Aberdeen’ were taken 1 Dec 1937 by Jennie Harrison as part of a survey and documentation that was included in files with the W.P.A. program and associated with the record of review to determine the buildings’ qualifications for historical register status. Elizabeth Cooke Hurt was given as informant. The official name of the property is given as ‘Aberdeen’ and the site number is given as VDHR file no. 74-0001. The recommendation process was complete in 2001 on November 20th by the Virginia Department of Historical Resources.
The one building is given as privately owned. It is a single dwelling with agricultural fields that is currently functioning as a single dwelling for the purpose of agriculture that matches the given historic function as a single dwelling in the Domestic category with agricultural fields in the category of Agriculture.
The building is architecturally classified as Early Republic and Early Classical Revival. The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to te broad patterns of our history and embodies the distinctive characteristics of type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction. There are 378 acres associated with the dwelling. The period of significance for the building is 1840. That date would coincide with the marriage of Nathaniel Cooke that was held at ‘Aberdeen.’ The information given is that the dwelling is owned by Aberdeen Farm Properties, LLC at Aberdeen Farm, 15301 James River Drive, Disputana, Virginia 23842.
The lengthy descriptions of the property as contained in the paperwork seeking placement in the National Register of Historic Places follow:
Aberdeen is an imposing brick temple-form house. The main façade features an imposing pediment finished with horizontal flush sheathing. The walls are laid in Flemish bond with flat arches over the openings. A diminutive portico with Doric columns is the central feature. It and the main roof have cornices with block modillion. A lateral hall runs across the entire front of the house, which is reflected in the side elevations that each have a door and two windows on the first floor below three windows on the second floor. Aberdeen is one of a group of houses that have this plan and front elevation. They occur over a long period and are scattered randomly across the state. Aberdeen also features important Federal interior woodwork in remarkably undisturbed condition. The house sits in a picturesque grove in front of woodland and wetlands. Between the fenced yard and the main road are flat fields typical of Tidewater Virginia still in cultivation, as they have been for at least three centuries. On these and other fields Thomas Cocke and his friend Edmund Ruffin conducted experiments in fertilization that led to Ruffin’s publications that revolutionized farming.
Exterior: The house at Aberdeen is a large plantation house built with the overall proportions of a classical temple. The walls feature Flemish bond brickwork with simple flat arches of the openings. The pediment is covered with flush sheathing and is outlined by a cornice featuring block modillion. This cornice continues around the house. The first-floor windows feature 9-over-9 sash and the second floor 6-over-9. The window frames are set flush with the brick walls and are not recessed, as is usually the case. The windows are fitted with louvered shutters. The house sits on a high basement lit by small rectangular windows.
The front (east) elevation is three bays wide. A diminutive 3-bay Doric portico shelters the central double door. It has the same cornice as the main roof. The porch has wide steps between stepped brick plinths (of 20th century vintage). In the center of the pediment is a round-arched window framed by arched blinds.
The 3-bay side elevations are identical with double doors at the front ends with two windows beyond on the first floor. On the second level windows occur above each lower opening. These elevations reflect the interior plan – a lateral front hall opening into two rooms behind.
In the rear wall brick continues to the top of the gable. There is a pair of slightly projecting chimneys. A one-story frame wing is attached which now houses a bathroom and kitchen. This wing contains work from different periods and probably has been rebuilt several times. Happily it is so subordinate to the great mass of the house that it does not compromise the classical proportions. It provides modern conveniences and leaves the original interior spaces unchanged.
Interior: The front door opens in to the hall that runs the width of the front of the house. At each end are double doors. All three exterior doors feature transoms and leaves in which the panels have been replaced with panes of glass. Across the hall, interior doors lead to the two rooms beyond the hall. These single doors are robust 6-panel ones set in handsome double architrave frames. The splayed door and window reveals and soffits are reeded. In the northeast corner, the stair rises in a long initial run to a landing, a transverse run, another landing, and a final reverse run. The stair features a simple newel, square in section, and a handrail, oval in section, set on a recessed rectangular base. Simple balusters, square in section, support the rail. The treads rest on delicate curvilinear brackets. The hall like all the downstairs rooms, has pedestal wainscot with flush panels. There is a delicately molded cornice at the ceiling and a flat picture molding set in the wall about three feet below the cornice.
Behind he hall are the parlor (the southeast room) and the dining room (the northeast room). The large rooms are of equal size. They have similar pedestal wainscots and dentil cornices with slight variations in detail. The windows in the dining room have reeded reveals and soffits; those in the parlor are flat paneled. Each has a fireplace in its end (west) wall.
In the parlor, bookshelves have been built to the right of the fireplace. the fireplace probably retains its original large brick firebox, topped by a thin jack arch. The brick surround is framed by a delicate molding which is, in turn, bordered by a band of reeded blocks set flush with each other. Very narrow fluted pilasters frame the opening and support and entablature of probably unique design. The cap molding of the pilasters continues across the top of the fluted band. The entablature breaks out over the pilasters and a central block. Between the three projections is a band of concave recesses. Above it is an intricate molding that breaks and carries over the projections. Above the molding a punch-and-dentil band occurs between the blocks. The cornice shelf features complex moldings.
In the dining room there is a closet to the left of the mantel and a door to the right that gives access to the one-story rear wing. While the doorcases to these openings appear to be original, the doors are not, and the present arrangement may not be the original one. The mantel is a simpler version of the one in the parlor. It repeats the fluted pilasters and three-part architrave but has a simpler entablature with a continuous band of modified wall-of-troy ornament. Above each pilaster cap is found a curious element that resembles an enlarged section of bead-and-reel ornament.
On the second floor, a winding stair to the third floor is located beside the main stair. There is a small hall room in the southeast corner. There are rooms of equal size over the parlor and dining rooms. These have wainscot and mantels with cornice shelves ornamented with dentils over openings framed with two-part architraves. The corners adjacent to the mantels (next to the common dividing wall) have been enclosed with angled walls to create a bathroom accessible to each bedroom.
The third floor has several rooms of differing sizes. Only two have windows – a small one served by the arched pediment window and a large one utilizing the window between the chimneys on the rear wall. There is a storage room under the roof on the south side.
There are photographic and other records of outbuildings that once stood near the house. A smokehouse was recently dismantled, but has been stored on the site for future rebuilding. The yard consists of mature trees and shrubs typical of rural Virginia. There are informal flowerbeds in the side yard north of the house. The yard is surrounded by trees in the fence rows on the front and sides and woodland at the rear. In fornt of the house are broad open fields divided by an axial driveway that runs out to State Route 10. These fields and adjacent ones are planted today with seasonal crops. The deep cut where the road enters the gate to the front yard attests to the great age of the lane. Behind the house and fields are stands of pine timber, mixed woodlands, and designated wetlands. Except for a few small houses in the distance, view is of the flat fields that cover most of Prince George County. The land is still used as much of it was in the 19th century and some of the present crops may well still benefit from the marling done by Cocke and Ruffin almost two centuries ago.
Aberdeen in Prince George County, Virginia, is significant at the state level under Criterion C for its architectural merit and under Criterion A for the unsung contribution of Thomas Cocke to the agricultural research done by his close friend, Edmund Ruffin. The house that Cocke built on his inherited land is one of a small group of houses built with lateral front halls serving pairs of large rooms. It contains distinguished Federal woodwork whose idiosyncrasies may well be linked to other houses through additional study. The house is remarkably well-preserved, with few changes, and sympathetic modernizations. Its sits surrounded by woodland, wetlands, and flat fields still being farmed. Thomas Cocke’s role as Ruffin’s guardian and later as confidant and friend has been overshadowed by Ruffin’s strong personality. Though Cocke did not publish his experiments on soil renewal, his debates with Ruffin and their mutual investigations were significant part of Ruffin’s research. In the fields still under cultivation at Aberdeen and on their lands nearby they experimented and cogitated. Ruffin’s published works reformed a significant segment of American agriculture.